While the final results of the election have yet to be released, an overall trend has become clear. With close to an estimated 100 seats in the National Assembly, the PTI appears to be emerging as the single largest party in Pakistan’s new Parliament. It is followed by the PML-N, with an estimated 73 seats, the PPP with 40, and independents with about 21 seats. At the time of writing this piece, no results of any kind, projected or otherwise, were reported for just over a dozen seats nationwide. As is always the case with preliminary results based on a relatively small percentage of polling stations, it is important to remember that the overall picture can and will change as more votes are counted. The main points to be taken away from this election depend to an extent on the overall view one has of the entire electoral process. For those who are sympathetic to the PTI, the plurality it has secured in the National Assembly is nothing less than the culmination of a decades-long struggle that has seen Imran Khan go from being a political non-entity to possibly the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. Building on its success and undoubted popularity in KPK (and becoming the first incumbent party to be re-elected by that province in more than two decades), the PTI can now claim that its message of change, its relentless campaign against the corruption of the Sharifs and other PML-N leaders, and its energetic campaigning have now placed it in a position where it will likely form Pakistan’s next government, albeit as the majority partner in a coalition.On the other hand, there have long been rumblings that the entire election was rigged from the start, with gerrymandering, selective accountability being directed towards the PML-N and other parties, and the appointment of non-neutral caretaker governments, all pointing towards a concerted effort to subvert the electoral process and pave the way for Imran Khan’s appointment as the PM. Matters are not helped by disturbing reports of irregularities on election night itself, with the PML-N, PPP, MQM, PSP, AWP, and other parties claiming that their polling agents were forcibly removed from polling stations and not supplied with Form 45 – the document used to provide the final vote count. Seen from this perspective, the elections have yielded an entirely predictable result; fighting on a non-level playing field, the PML-N and other parties have been forced to yield political space to a surging PTI. Some wits on twitter, wary of taking names in an atmosphere increasingly hostile to dissent and free expression, have euphemistically congratulated the ‘Agriculture Department’ for its success in producing the electoral outcome it reportedly desired. Time will tell which of these two narratives about the elections is correct, and it is history that will judge if the victors and vanquished deserved their fates on July 25, 2018. For now, if the election results are to be taken at face value, there are several interesting developments that merit attention. First, it is clear that the PML-N, which has spent a decade solidifying its vote bank in Punjab, now faces a serious threat from the PTI in its heartlands, with the latter being projected to win seats in the northern and central parts of the province.This, in tandem with the defection of many of the PML-N’s candidates in southern Punjab, another area where the PTI has had some success, means that the former’s stranglehold on the province and, therefore, national politics, appears to be weakening. The PML-N’s troubles are only beginning however; while results for the provincial assemblies have yet to be reported, early indications suggest that the party may not even be able to form a provincial government, something that would deal a blow from which the party may not be able to recover in the years to come. Second, this election has also witnessed the further disappearance of some of the parties that fared poorly in 2013. With just two and three seats, respectively, the ANP and PML-Q have been rendered even more irrelevant than before. Not surprisingly, a similar fate appears to have befallen the MQM, which has managed a paltry six seats in this election, ceding space to the PTI amongst others. The MMA, with 6 seats, appears to have benefitted the most from the collapse of the ANP.Third, contrary to the fears of many prior to the elections, extremist religious parties like the TLY do not appear to have made any significant electoral headway, although their impact is perhaps best judged by the final share of the vote they manage to receive. As has always been the case throughout Pakistan’s electoral history, religious parties have been shunned in favour of more mainstream ones reliant on traditional patronage politics and electable politicians. That some of these parties have swung to the right themselves in response to the religious parties is, of course, a separate matter. Finally, the estimated 20 seats won by independents is roughly the same as the number won by such candidates in 2013, reinforcing the idea that there are few constituencies where candidates can hope to succeed without party labels. However, as is often the case, the relatively small number of independents is still large enough to be pivotal in any negotiations about the formation of a coalition government. Given the PTI’s stated opposition to working with the PPP, it will be interesting to see which individuals and smaller parties will the PTI have to ally with to reach a majority in the National Assembly, and what price they will extract, now and in the future, for their continued cooperation.The writer teaches Political Science at Lahore University of Management SciencesPublished in Daily Times, July 26th 2018.